In a rare example where 3D has the potential to actually be something more than a headache-inducing gimmick, researchers at the Japan Science and Technology Agency have developed the world's first scanning electron microscope capable of capturing a 3D images in real time.

Creating microscopic 3D images with an electron microscope isn't a new idea, but previous techniques required separate images to be taken after the electron gun was shifted to account for the view from each eye. So it was far from real time. This new technique, however, uses an electromagnetic 'lens' that's able to slightly slant the electron beam when powered on, instantly creating left and right eye parallax images.

The only tradeoff is that the images produced have a slightly lower resolution than those created with traditional electron microscope imaging techniques. But having the ability to examine cells or other micro-organisms in 3D, in real-time, could give scientists an opportunity to observe their behaviors in a unique way and gain further insights into how they function. So the tradeoff in resolution may not necessarily be a bad thing. [Tech-On!]